I always cringe a little when people tell me I have a "big heart."
It's something I hear fairly regularly. But it's definitely not how I see myself.
When they say it I imagine Forest Gump. A well meaning mentally challenged individual.
It is also always followed by advice on how I need to counteract my big heart.
"You have a big heart Sage BUT you can't help the homeless in the way you are currently doing."
Like I'm Hodor from The Game of Thrones.
"Stop carrying that boy around and try to grasp the complexity of this situation."
I don't actually see myself as kind or gentle or even particularly loving.
I see myself as a person with a conscience. A person with a moral backbone.
A big hearted person just sounds like someone who means well but isn't living in reality.
Probably the most influential class I ever took in college was a 400 level philosophy class titled "Advanced Ethics."
We studied real world issues like abortion, and eating meat. We then broke them down intellectually and philosophically. I've always carried this class with me especially now in a the world of Facebook where people just discuss these issues emotionally and never really allow themselves to think about them intellectually.
In discussing eating meat we read some works by Peter Singer. He is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and a Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He specialises in applied ethics and approaches ethical issues from a secular, utilitarian perspective.
I love Peter Singer because he is an atheist yet has come to an incredibly high level of morality through intellectualism. I was in the heart of my own personal atheism when I was studying him. The idea that you could be moral without needing the permission of an imaginary God spoke very powerfully to me then and still does today.
After reading Singer I can guarantee you will be absolutely unable to rationalize eating meat. He makes a rock solid argument of how the meat industry is totally unacceptable and wrong from every single perspective. This was so profoundly impactful to me that I became a vegetarian... for two weeks.
I just love hamburgers too much.
That says a lot about me.
I am not big hearted or even very courageous. I often wither in the face of selfish desires.
Probably the reason I dislike being called big hearted so much is because it simply isn't true.
Do you know how many pregnant women I've sent back into the street because I wasn't "allowed" to offer them shelter?
I don't know the number either. It's too many to count.
I vividly remember sending a young pregnant women out into the night in January after our camp was closed by the city because the city told me I wasn't allowed to shelter people in my building either.
She was freezing. She was young. I knew her well.
I sent her into the night with nothing. I had nothing to offer her. No tent. No sleeping bag. Nothing. I just told her she had to leave.
And don't tell me "I was only doing what I could do." That's bullshit.
I acted as a coward in the face of oppressors. "I have too much to lose," I say to myself.
I would be embarrassed to even look someone like Miep Gies in the eyes with the level of cowardice I sometimes portray.
A couple weeks ago a woman came to us who left a 30 year abusive relationship and was prostituted the entire time. I wrote about her here: A Sex Trafficked Woman Had Nowhere To Sleep Last Night - The Homeless Charity & Village.
All women's shelters are currently full in Akron. The Haven of Rest, the place we all rely on, is on a waiting list for a mat on the floor for women.
A commentor on Facebook wrote something like: "I hope you did the right thing."
Well, I didn't. I didn't do the right thing.
We sent her into the night. No shelter. No safety. Nothing.
I pushed her out into the street with this story still burning in my mind: Woman shot while shielding children from attack by ex-boyfriend.
This shooting happened not a block from our building.
The city told me I'm not allowed to shelter people, is my weak excuse.
The way I made it square in my mind was that I was trying to offer something for the greater good.
Sure. I might have to sacrifice this "one woman" but then if I'm a good boy and I follow the rules the city will let me do my work to help a larger group of people.
Our village was closed in January. And now our entire building is closed to helping homeless people in any way.
They will not allow me to do this work. And the reason is simple: They don't like me.
The homeless service providers don't like me because I am coming to a solution where you don't have to build $10 million buildings to house 80 people. That's $125,000 a person. We don't need to create $125,000 spaces to house homeless people. It's a system that will never be able to solve homelessness.
And there it is: This isn't about solving homelessness to these people. This is about money. They are protecting a system that makes people rich on the backs of homeless people.
They will never stop trying to put me out of business because I threaten their entire system. The biggest risk to them is having an entrepreneur show up to ACTUALLY solve homelessness.
With our current power monopoly in Akron we will never have the tiny homes Kansas City just built for homeless veterans.
Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said the Kansas City-based Veterans Community Project is deeply impressive during a campaign visit Wednesday morning. The nonprofit offers a range of veteran services, including temporary housing assistance.
Buttigieg said the Veterans Community Project has the ability to fill the gaps and help veterans in ways the government has not.
Nothing will happen in Akron that the Akron government doesn't approve first.
I've been obsessed with protecting my building in hopes that I would be able to be a center for innovative homeless work. I now know that will never happen.
Have you seen the $12 million building they are finishing up in front of my building? Have you been to the new Starbucks or Maserati dealership a couple blocks from my building? Are you getting ready for the Entertainment District that was recently approved by city council that you can see from my building?
Not only do they not like me, they don't like where I am. I'm in their way.
They don't care one bit about homeless people. They are much more interested in splash pads.
The 1,600-square-foot splash pad at Joy Park Community Center is set to open in August, Mayor Dan Horrigan said at Mondays groundbreaking.
These splash pads "only" use about 89.5 gallons of water per minute so they're going to be water- and eco-friendly. And at "only" $193,000 each we should see them popping up like dandelions everywhere. They are so cheap.
The mayor likes to say: "public space is a public right."
(HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF A GODDAMN HOSE AND SPRINKLER!?)
Oh, and did you catch this statement the mayor made on how "welcoming" Akron is:
"No one... should be denied a place to live just because of who they are."
See. I can't even turn off the anger and bitterness for a minute.
I'm furious at the hypocrisy and lies and callous brutality of Akron's government. And I'm deeply embarrassed by my own cowardice and selfish motivations.
If my heart is "big" it is only so because of anger and spite.
Please stop telling me I have a big heart. I just have a mild conscience that isn't even particularly brave or courageous.